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The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peaceby Ali A. Allawi
"Ali A. Allawi's magnificent book arrives not a moment too soon. Here, finally, is a man of Iraq who knows its history and its wounds....A new history is offering itself to the Iraqis, and in the tale of disappointment that Allawi brilliantly narrates, there is still the furtive shadow of hope, an echo of deliverance, an undisguised sense of fulfillment at the spectacle of men and women released from a terrible captivity." Fouad Ajami, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
Involved for over thirty years in the politics of Iraq, Ali A. Allawi was a long-time opposition leader against the Baathist regime. In the post-Saddam years he has held important government positions and participated in crucial national decisions and events. In this book, the former Minister of Defense and Finance draws on his unique personal experience, extensive relationships with members of the main political groups and parties in Iraq, and deep understanding of the history and society of his country to answer the baffling questions that persist about its current crises. What really led the United States to invade Iraq, and why have events failed to unfold as planned?
The Occupation of Iraq examines what the United States did and didn't know at the time of the invasion, the reasons for the confused and contradictory policies that were enacted, and the emergence of the Iraqi political class during the difficult transition process. The book tracks the growth of the insurgency and illuminates the complex relationships among Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds. Bringing the discussion forward to the reconfiguration of political forces in 2006, Allawi provides in these pages the clearest view to date of the modern history of Iraq and the invasion that changed its course in unpredicted ways.
"Allawi, until recently a senior minister in the Iraqi government, provides an insider's account of the nascent Iraqi government following the American invasion. His scholarly yet immensely readable exposition of Iraqi society and politics will likely become the standard reference on post-9/11 Iraq. It convincingly blasts the Coalition Provisional Authority for failing to understand the simmering sectarian animosity and conflicting loyalties that led Iraq into chaos. Beginning during Saddam's reign, among the motley gang of liberal democrats, Islamists and Kurdish nationalists that formed the opposition-in-exile, of which Allawi was a prominent member, he chronicles the fortunes and aspirations of the political parties, personalities and interest groups that now are tearing Iraq apart. In one representative episode, after the siege of Fallujah in 2004, the Marines initiated an ill-fated attempt to create a Fallujah Brigade of local men who would be loyal to the CPA. '[Head of the CPA L. Paul] Bremer... learned about it from newspaper reports.... The defense minister [Allawi himself] went on television, denouncing the Fallujah Brigade.... The 'Fallujah Brigade,' after a few weeks of apparent cooperation with the Marines, began to act as the core of a national liberation army. Any pretense that they were rooting out insurgents was dropped.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"It was almost four years ago that L. Paul Bremer made a decision that may have doomed U.S. attempts to create a new Iraq: The American proconsul issued his infamous order banning many midlevel members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party from working for Iraq's largest and most coveted employer, its government. In the following months, the Sunnis who had dominated the old ruling elite argued that postwar... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) national reconciliation depended on modifying the decree. Meanwhile, leaders of Iraq's once-oppressed Shiite majority insisted on keeping the policy intact. In recent months, desperate to promote peace among Sunnis and Shiites, the Bush administration has re-entered the fray, calling for Iraq's Shiite-led government to allow more ex-Baathists to return to their old jobs. In all of the back-and-forth, nobody of any stature has suggested that Bremer's approach toward the Baathists was too soft. But now, in a compelling, detailed history of the occupation, Iraq's first postwar civilian defense minister makes just that argument. In the first major account from an Iraqi insider, Ali A. Allawi contends in 'The Occupation of Iraq' that one of Washington's principal mistakes was that Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority did not go far enough in dismantling the Baathist structure of Iraq's bureaucracy. 'The CPA did not demolish the state that it had inherited and then start to rebuild it along the lines that it prescribed,' Allawi writes. 'The unwillingness to treat the Baath legacy for what it was — a totalitarian state with a privileged elite — and therefore in need of a radical overhaul, made the CPA reforms essentially tentative and nominal. It was as if a huge, decrepit building had been struck unevenly by a demolition ball that succeeded in inflicting only minor damage to the edifice.' Saying that Bremer didn't go far enough is a striking and controversial argument. Allawi — a former banker who left Iraq to study at MIT in 1964, lived in exile until 2003, and later served as the country's postwar finance minister — maintains that Bremer's 'blunderbuss approach' to de-Baathification was too focused on high-ranking officials; Allawi laments that Bremer's occupation government did not do enough to root out Baathists and their network of sympathizers from important midlevel positions in the government. Allawi's hard-line views on de-Baathification aren't shared by many of the Americans who have been involved in crafting Iraq policy. There's a growing consensus, even at the White House, that Bremer's policy needlessly alienated anxious Sunnis and helped fuel the insurgency. But Allawi, a secular Shiite who still advises Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, has a real-world basis for his argument: He ran three different Iraqi ministries, where he encountered firsthand the dysfunction of the country's corrupt, lazy and nepotistic bureaucracy. Although Bremer's CPA has been knocked for focusing on minutiae — rewriting Iraq's traffic law and tax code, for instance — instead of more quickly handing over sovereignty to the Iraqis, Allawi wishes the Americans had tinkered with more, not less. It wasn't just de-Baathification that he thinks was too timid; he contends that the CPA should have overhauled state-owned businesses by pushing for more free-market reforms. It is understandable that former exiles such as Allawi would seek an even more aggressive overhaul of Iraq's government, but it's difficult to imagine that many Iraqis who stayed put during the Baath tyranny would have tolerated an American occupation that sought to do so. Indeed, Allawi's lament is shared by many former Iraqi exiles who returned to their country after Hussein's fall, dreaming of modernizing their homeland and sharing all they had gleaned in their years overseas. But the Iraq they encountered was very different from the one they left: It was decrepit and dangerous, riven by ethnic and religious tension. In the end, Allawi is just as critical of his fellow Iraqis as he is of the Americans. It is his countrymen, he concludes, who have failed to put aside their sect and work for the common good. Thankfully, Allawi's book is not simply a polemic. It is a thorough account of the effort to govern and reconstruct Iraq as told by an Iraqi who was deeply involved in the process. Though dense at points, 'The Occupation of Iraq' is packed with fascinating details for those who have closely followed America's misadventure in Iraq, and it's a valuable primer for those who haven't. His insider account of the past four years — and his views of what the United States should have done differently — adds a valuable new voice to the ongoing debate about Iraq. Rajiv Chandrasekaran is a former Baghdad bureau chief of The Washington Post and the author of 'Imperial Life in the Emerald City.'" Reviewed by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Magisterial....Pure gold....Will certainly become the benchmark work against which all later books will have to be measured. It is authoritative, incisive, dispassionate, devastating in its important judgments, and wholly original. Allawi is one of a handful of men who can tell the whole story of policy, government and administration from the basis of close, personal experience." Roger Owen, Harvard University
"Nobody was better situated than Allawi to provide readeres with unique insights to the events leading up to the invasion of Iraq and how the occupation and reconstruction efforts were handled." Frederick Smith, United States Department of Defence
"While many books have been written about Iraq's tragedy, Ali Allawi's story offers a unique insider's perspective of the global forces, local passions and diverse personalities that converged to create a situation that will haunt us for decades. An indispensable source of ideas about what happened — and what is likely to happen — in Iraq." Moises Naim, editor in chief of Foreign Policy magazine and author of Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy
"A comprehensive survey of the occupation of Iraq that highlights the complacency and failings of the American project. This is a sobering account, written from the rare view of an Iraqi insider. Allawi reveals how often the Iraqis were ignored in the chaotic rebuilding of their country and explains the complex dynamics behind Iraq's descent into violent sectarainism." Rory McCarthy, Jerusalem correspondent for the Guardian and author of Nobody Told Us We Are Defeated: Stories from the New Iraq
"Ali A. Allawi, until recently an Iraqi minister, is one of Iraq's most respected politicians of the post-Saddam era. His study of the crisis in Iraq is by far the most perceptive analysis of the extent of the disaster in his country, and how it might best be resolved. It is the first real attempt to suggest the Middle East might pull out of its death spiral." Patrick Cockburn, correspondent for the Independent and author of The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq
About the Author
Ali A. Allawi is senior adviser to the Prime Minister of Iraq. Since the Coalition's invasion of Iraq, he served as his country's first postwar civilian Minister of Defense, was elected to the Transitional National Assembly as a member of the United Iraqi Alliance, and was appointed Minister of Finance under Dr. Ibrahim al-Jaffari. He divides his time between London and Baghdad.
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